The one constant in the modern data center is scale. IT professionals are continuously under pressure to add additional servers, virtual machines and containers. With those additions comes the demand for more storage capacity and more storage performance. The storage network needs to keep pace so that the connection between the computing and storage tiers is seamless. The problem is the storage network can cause the agile data center to trip and fall while it waits for the network team to provision new switches.
The Modern Data Center Needs Self-Provisioning Switches
One of the most time-consuming parts of the provisioning process is setting up and maintaining zones. In storage networking, a “zone” is a collection of initiator and target ports. Initiators are typically servers, which request data through target ports, typically to storage systems. To communicate with each other, these device’s targets and initiators need to be in the same zone. A zone is manually created, activated and manually has devices assigned to it. Modern switch technology should automatically zone new devices into the appropriate zone eliminating manual configuration.
Scalability in Small Increments
Another challenge when selecting a new switch is determining which size switch best fits the organization’s needs. Modular switches are extremely popular and cost effective but make the port sizing process even more important since they do have a hard limit to the number of supported ports. If budget is not an issue, then the organization could choose the highest port count switch available and wait for the organization to grow into the purchase. The problem is that the majority of the switch investment sits idle while the organization grows.
Instead, IT planners should look for switch offerings that charge by the number of ports in use instead of the number of possible ports available. Modern switch vendors can sell high port count switches but only charge their customers for a small fraction of the potentially available ports. Customers can then activate ports in small increments as their environment scales.
The pay for the port as you need it business model has two advantages for the customer. First, they are only paying for the ports they are using, but they have room for growth. Second, it saves them deployment time since IT needs to rack and stack fewer switches less often. Also since the switch is in place adding new servers or storage systems is straightforward, activate the ports and plug-in the new devices. Moreover, with auto-zoning those new devices are automatically added to the right zone, ready for use.
The agile data center needs an agile network and nowhere is the network more brittle than when connecting new devices, or adding new switches. A “pay as you consume” model enables the organization to “go big” without paying too much in upfront costs. When adding new devices to the network, there is no waiting for the racking and stacking of new switches. Instead, IT merely activates the necessary ports. Features like auto-zone complete the process by automatically allocating the new devices to the correct zone. The result is a measurable reduction in network provisioning time, which enables the data center to maintain its agility.
To learn more about the next generation of networking, join Storage Switzerland and Cisco for our on demand webinar “Faster, Smarter, Simpler – The New Requirements in Storage Networking“.